Phil Jackson, team executive, put back on his coaching hat to teach — what else? — the triangle.
The 71-year-old led a lesson on the system strictly to the guards on Thursday, a practice that went unannounced by the team but confirmed by Jeff Hornacek a day later. Since it was a session for the guards, neither Carmelo Anthony nor Kristaps Porzingis participated — but Derrick Rose, a triangle skeptic, took part in the lesson. According to Hornacek, who said he welcomed Jackson’s input, the goal of the team president was to introduce new reads and options within the triangle set.
But Hornacek bristled when asked about the conundrum of installing new plays in March, specifically under an acknowledgement that they won’t have time to use them in actual games this season.
“You keep using the word install. Nobody installed anything (Thursday),” Hornacek said. “We showed a couple options. When you play basketball, there are so many things you can do. They are not options where you’re saying, ‘OK, this play, you’re going to go into this option.’ It’s more of reads that guys get, ‘OK, I can do that.’
“Phil always says, ‘There’s nothing really you do wrong as long as you stay in that basic concept of three guys on one side, and two on the other.’”
In other words, one of Jackson’s tenets is that nothing can go wrong in the triangle. Of course, this has the appearance of undermining Hornacek, who has little experience running the triangle and is deferring to an executive to teach plays.
About one year ago, Derek Fisher was fired because, among other things, his resistance to Jackson’s involvement in coaching. Fisher later revealed that Jackson’s presence confused players who asked, “Who am I committing myself to? Who am I selling myself to? Who am I running through the brick wall for?”
Sasha Vujacic, a triangle enthusiast who won two championships using that system with the Lakers, applauded Jackson’s involvement Thursday as, “Honestly? Amazing.”
“It was a really good session. We were told the right things; we were taught the right way and it felt good.” Vujacic, who was the only player to speak to the media Friday, said about Thursday’s practice, adding later, “Come on, we’re talking about Phil. His record speaks for itself. Just to have him there yesterday and seeing the young guys and other guys just being amazed by it. The way he talked to them, for me, I’ve seen that before. You can have someone trying to teach you something for years, months, whatever, and then you have someone like (Phil) who in half-an-hour explains things that might be a space ship to other people. So it was amazing.”
Whether the Knicks will use these new triangle options is another story. Jackson similarly taught a triangle seminar last April, but then hired Hornacek and the Knicks transitioned toward a faster-paced offense with more pick-and-rolls.
Following the All-Star break, the Knicks re-emphasized Jackson’s system, believing that the spacing of the triangle could help the defense. They are also using these remaining games of the lost season to evaluate which players fit the triangle. Still, Hornacek said the system is complicated and the Knicks probably won’t have time this season to use some of the stuff Jackson introduced.
They’re 2-5 since the All-Star break.
“(Phil taught) just a couple different options when the guards come up together, a couple different things they could do and what would happen,” Hornacek said. “Again, I think it’s good to get it into their heads and have a thought. I don’t see us necessarily getting around any of that in these last 18 games we have. But as we move forward, it’s good to have that knowledge for them.”
The Knicks (26-39) are in the midst of a four-game road trip, but traveled back home with two days off between games in Milwaukee and Detroit.
Hornacek said New York’s travel schedule was not dictated by this triangle session, and downplayed Jackson’s involvement as monthly and “no big deal.” Vujacic, however, dubbed it necessary for the guards to understand the triangle.
That’s not a glowing endorsement of Hornacek’s ability to teach the system.
“That was something very, very basic about the guards to understand the spacing,” Vujacic said. “They were confused. A lot of guys were confused so far so hopefully they got a lot of clarity last night and hopefully it will help. It was just something that you can’t go without.”
Published at Fri, 10 Mar 2017 20:56:52 +0000